Photograph by Maddie Rogin
This oral history collection is an entertaining deep-dive into the history and conservation efforts concerning the La Crosse marsh. It consists of a just over 60 minute CD oral history recording. An oral history is information in the form of interviews from people who have extensive knowledge on the subjects discussed. Craig Thompson, the interviewee, was an employee of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) who studied wildlife management and conservation. The interview was conducted in 2004 by UWL student Doris Bennett and UWL historian Charles Lee. The oral history was recorded at three different La Crosse locations on the same day, and is very entertaining with jokes being cracked in the transitional car rides to the different locations.
The La Crosse marsh is a beautifully maintained local ecosystem, but it hasn’t always been that way. Ever since Native Americans settled in the area, the marshes of La Crosse have presented blessings and curses. Marshes have been drained, filled in, or dammed up in order to allow for more developed urban spaces. While you listen, think to yourself: What made people want to conserve these marshes, and why did they need conserving? Also, focus on the methods of conservation being used to bring the marsh back. Because conservation is a nationwide effort, these methods could very well be used where you live.
It’s best to listen to this entire oral history. After all, it’s only an hour long! Listening to the entire recording is valuable because it provides a cohesive flow of information with the added benefit of enjoying the interviewee’s personality. You may also come across tidbits of information you find interesting that are not included in the timestamps below, and they could lead you on a totally different historical journey. However, if you are pressed for time, here are some key moments that altogether tell a single story about the marsh:
NOTE: The terms “wetland” and “marsh” are used interchangeably throughout the recording.
2:01 to 5:10 – This section of the recording introduces Craig Thompson and his work in wildlife management. It also introduces the interviewers, but you only need to focus on Thompson’s introduction. What does he do, and why is it important?
7:20 to 10:33 – In this section, Thompson explains how floodplain marshes function as unique ecosystems. The terms used are a bit technical, so don’t be afraid to pause the recording and look up a word you don’t know! (By the way, there’s a glossary at the end of this FFA. Just scroll down!) While you listen, think about why people should understand the unique nature of these environments.
11:42 to 15:00 – This part in the recording presents the impacts of human settlement on the marshes of La Crosse. Thompson brings up a number of interesting changes made to the marsh that have helped people settle in the La Crosse area. So, while you listen, make note of ways humans can manipulate their environment. How could those manipulations harm the environment in the long run?
17:27 to 20:43 – This section of the recording deals with the reasons why settlers were attracted to the wetlands. While listening, think to yourself: Why do people settle in wetland environments when it is difficult to do so?
29:04 to 34:12 – This portion of the recording discusses the importance of upland ridges. Again, there’s some technical jargon, so be vigilant and pause when you need to look something up. What are these upland ridges? How do they keep the marsh healthy?
38:11 to 45:25 – This part of the recording covers the industrial and commercial history of the marsh. It starts with some business matters that are not necessary to understand the story Thompson is telling, so if you want to, you may skip the first three minutes and jump to the effects of industry development in La Crosse at 41:00. Focus on how La Crosse industry changed the marsh, and why it is important to understand these changes.
46:34 to 48:58 – This part is about the relationships between wetland forests and willow-bed environments. Thompson makes a point that these types of forests are unique. Listen for what makes wetland forests unique, and why it is important to protect them.
50:35 to 53:10 – In this part, Thompson talks about the issues with invasive species living in the marshes. This is particularly relevant today, since invasive species are even more widespread. So, keep in mind: How are invasive species a threat to the marsh? And, why should you be concerned about them?
55:47 to 59:53 – The last part of the recording discusses how far the marsh has come in terms of environmental conservation. For the final stretch, think about how people in La Crosse worked to conserve the wetlands. What social changes have occurred to make people want to conserve the wetlands?
20:44 to 29:00 – This section isn’t crucial to understanding the story, but it is interesting to listen to if you have the time. It discusses the relationship of the Native Americans with the marshes and their farming practices.
Reviewed by: Madeline Rogin
La Crosse Tribune Daily, Erik. Wildlife in the La Crosse River Marsh. September 2016. Photograph. La Crosse Tribune, Article, September 2016.
In the 1980s the population of La Crosse and the surrounding area was growing, and so to deal with potential traffic issues, the La Crosse city government introduced an idea to expand the freeway into the city. In the proposal, the La Crosse River Marsh would be filled. This led to the formation of the La Crosse River Marsh Coalition (LCRMC). The LCRMC wanted to spread awareness that a landmark of La Crosse could be taken away and to get the public involved in their fight to save the river marsh from being filled. The LCRMC collection, consists of one box with twenty-two folders filled with newspaper clippings, meeting minutes, surveys, and studies. This finding aid focuses on the fight between the LCRMC and the city of La Crosse over the river marsh, and discuss the potential environmental impacts of filling the marsh. The folders that are selected for the finding aid provide a background into battle between the city of La Crosse and its marsh, as well as the public’s opinion on the matter.
The folders used in this FFA are not in numerical order. Instead they are in this order: background, environmental impact statements, LCRMC’s official position on the marsh, the city’s view, and citizens’ responses through letters to the editor.
This is good starting folder for any historian interested in or wanting to learn everything there is to know about the La Crosse River Marsh! It contains background information from 1841 to the 1990s and provides a great outline for the rest of the collection. There is a general history of the river marsh, a description of past uses of the marsh, and the feelings of the public toward it all in a stapled packet. The title to look for is the “Importance of Wetlands.”
This folder contains a single stapled report. It deals with the public mediator, whose job is to figure out what to do with the land, and if there are any laws being broken. The report outlines the loss of wetlands statewide and the need for the United States Army Corps of Engineers to approve any project. On the pages marked 131 and 132 (there are not this many pages in the folder) there is an outline of the short and long term environmental impacts of filling the marsh. Did the report decide if filling the marsh was positive or negative?
The folder contains the LCRMC pamphlets, The Egret, which were published every couple of months to update citizens on the progress of the potential highway development. The pamphlets provided news, information, and suggestions on how the citizens of La Crosse could get involved in the fight to save the area. There are not a lot (only 6 or 7) pamphlets to read, so read them all. They will reveal the campaign against the city.
Folder thirteen contains notes that were brainstorming ideas to combat the city’s plan to fill the marsh. They are handwritten notes (not in cursive!). Find the first meeting dated November, 1988 and find out what the plans were.
Folder seventeen contains a public survey done by a professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, who is affiliated with LCRMC. It includes a statement regarding the stance of the organization as well as a summary of the public’s attitudes toward the river marsh. Look for the summary at the beginning of the survey. Read to see how the LCRMC is trying to engage the public in this battle.
This folder has the City Council’s ideas on how to use the La Crosse River Marsh to expand the freeway into the city. Documents in this folder include the specific ideas that city council members have for filling the river marsh in order to get people into the center of La Crosse. The folder also includes notes from the City Council regarding the debate between easier transportation versus preservation. They discuss the benefits and setbacks of filling the marsh. Look to find the voting record of the city council members. Look to determine how closely divided the issue was.
Folder two is really fun to read because it is filled with the opinions that the people of La Crosse expressed on this issue. The folder contains La Crosse Tribune newspaper clippings about public reaction to the highway proposal along with opinions on what should be done to the river marsh. You will find letters to the editor that contain community member opinions. Do most want the marsh to be filled or left alone? The La Crosse Tribune goes through a history of their own reporting on the river marsh as well. Look for the article entitled “The Land No One Can Use.” It’s from back in the 1930s, and gives a representation of what people thought about the marsh back then.
Reviewed by: Patrick McCormick
Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)
The real name of this collection is Demonstrations, or, Student Demonstrations. It contains three vertical files: “Demonstrations #1,” “Demonstrations #2 (1966-1972),” and “Demonstrations #3.” The files are filled with newspaper articles, government documents, university documents, newsletters, student event flyers, student protest signs, and more. There is no set organization for any folder, and all of the files cover La Crosse and other campuses. Don’t be fooled by the label!
The documents in each folder have to do with student protests mostly during the 1960s and 1970s, although there are also some articles from the 1990s and 2000s. These protests were generally about the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the environment, and other issues important to students.
The documents show how the 1960s and 1970s were a time of conflict between college students and the government, as well as college students and La Crosse community members. The language used is very interesting and informative. For example, in a number of the government documents, college students are described as needing haircuts, baths, clean clothes, and more intelligence. There are many La Crosse Tribune articles that report student actions negatively.
PLEASE NOTE: In many of the articles from the 1960s and 1970s, UW-La Crosse was called Wisconsin State University-La Crosse (WSU) or La Crosse University (LCU).
PLEASE NOTE: The citation for each document in the vertical file depends on the type of document it is. For example, a newspaper article would be cited differently than a memo or a protest sign. Go to the Chicago Manual of Style, or ask a librarian or teacher for help.
CALL NUMBER/TITLE: UW-L Vertical Files – Students – Demonstrations
Demonstrations File #1 has documents that cover 1966-2009. There are newspaper articles about bomb threats on the La Crosse campus, student protests against the Vietnam War and U.S involvement in Cambodia, reaction to student protests, rallies against coal burning, protests against U.S. involvement in Iraq, use of tear gas and force on student protestors, and violence against women. This file also contains UWL student-made flyers, and documents between the university and the government in which officials discuss what to do about campus demonstrations and bomb threats.
Demonstrations File #2 is very similar to File #1 except it’s thicker. This file has mostly government reports that discuss problems with student protests in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the U.S. There are also newspaper articles specifically about La Crosse University students causing trouble. There are a few articles from UW-Madison’s liberal newspaper, The Daily Cardinal, about student protests. There is a court document on an incident that took place at UW-Oshkosh involving the Black Student Union’s civil rights protests. Some students were suspended for disruption and destruction of property.
Demonstrations File #3 is similar to the other two files, however it has mostly student-made flyers that announce demonstration events on La Crosse’s campus. There are also many documents and flyers that mention the draft and the Vietnam War, as well as anti-war happenings at Kent State (in Ohio) and Berkeley (in California).
Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher
Alvin M. Peterson was an amateur naturalist from La Crosse County who lived from 1884 to 1977. He wrote nature articles for newspapers and school papers, and kept detailed records of the plant and bird species he saw on his own land, as well as other areas throughout Western Wisconsin. In addition to nature writing, Peterson also wrote various children’s stories, many of which he never published. The collection also has articles from his days as a small-town principal, various anti-war articles and letters (not all written by Peterson), and a journal he kept during the time of the Korean War. Almost everything in this collection is typed.
Boxes 1-7 contain Alvin Peterson’s published, self-published, and unpublished writing. Peterson wrote for children’s magazines, as well as nature journals, such as Field and Stream. Most of the writing in these boxes consists of articles that he cut out and pasted into blank books. The dates range from the 1920s into the 1970s. Box 2 contains a published travel book about our area called Palisades and Coulees, and box 3 (folder 8) lists all the plants he found on his Onalaska property, including some very nicely done leaf drawings.
Box 8 contains more articles written by Peterson, however folders 4 and 5 also contain various newspaper clippings that he found of interest, including newspaper articles and drafts of letters about the Vietnam War. The box also contains information about comedian and Civil Rights activist, Dick Gregory’s appearance at UWL.
Box 9 has 38 folders in it. Each folder holds an article of Peterson’s in draft form. His editing marks are all in pencil.
Box 10 also has many folders in it. Folder 33 holds a notebook where Peterson wrote down his thoughts, drafted articles, and made “To Do” lists. It also includes newspaper articles he found interesting. Folder 37 has a ballot with Joe McCarthy on it.
Boxes 11-16 contain more examples of Peterson’s writing. Box 14 (folder 22) contains a scrapbook with various newspaper articles. Box 14 (folder 11) is a journal kept during the Korean War. At the back of the journal is a 1971 letter that Peterson wrote to Gaylord Nelson concerning overpopulation.
Box 17 is bigger than all the other boxes. It is filled with scrapbooks of Peterson’s writing, but also included in folders 1 and 5 are newspaper articles Peterson wrote and collected while he was a principal in the 1910s. Some of the articles discuss WWI, including one by Theodore Roosevelt.
Box 18-20 contains Peterson’s “Outdoor Journals.” They began in 1948 and continued to 1961. Peterson discussed a number of nature issues throughout the journals, and recorded plant, bird, and animal sightings along with the dates when each was first seen. There are many leaf drawings and prints. Each journal is indexed. Some of the boxes also contain bird census work, such as Christmas and May Day bird counts, as well as counting Peterson did for the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Box 21 contains more articles and self-published books.
Edited by: Patricia Stovey and Kaley Brown